The first documented case of the "27 Club" was that of blues singer Robert Johnson, who died in 1938 under mysterious circumstances. Johnson was a hugely influential figure in the world of music, and his untimely death only added to his legend. In the ensuing years, an alarming number of other famous musicians would also die at age 27, including Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Kurt Cobain, and Amy Winehouse.
Robert Johnson was born in Hazlehurst, Mississippi, in 1911. He grew up in a poor family and received very little formal education. As a young man, he worked as a sharecropper and learned to play the guitar. Johnson began performing at local juke joints and quickly gained a reputation as a talented musician. He soon began touring the Mississippi Delta region with other blues musicians.
In 1936, Johnson went to San Antonio, Texas, to record his first songs for the American Record Corporation. He recorded two songs, "Terraplane Blues" and "Sweet Home Chicago", which were both released as 7-inch singles. These two recordings would later become some of Johnson's most famous songs.
A few months after recording his first songs, Johnson returned to Mississippi. It was there that he met Don Robey, the owner of Peacock Records. Robey offered to record Johnson again, but the sessions were unsuccessful. However, Robey did agree to release two of Johnson's previously recorded songs, "Hellhound on My Trail" and "Me and the Devil Blues".
There are many stories about Robert Johnson and how he supposedly sold his soul to the devil in exchange for musical talent. One story says that Johnson met the devil at a crossroads in Mississippi one night and made a deal with him. The devil tuned Johnson's guitar for him three times before vanishing into the darkness.
Unfortunately, we know much more about how Robert Johnson died than we do about how he lived. What we do know is that he died at the age of 27 after being poisoned by a jealous husband. Some say that it was the Devil who come to collect on Johnson's deal, but whatever the cause, Robert Johnson's death marked the end of extraordinary talent.
Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head in 1994. His body was discovered days after he had died, and the coroner's report ruled his death a suicide. Cobain was just 27 years old when he died.
Legendary guitarist Jimi Hendrix died in London in 1970 from asphyxia due to inhalation of vomit. The exact circumstances surrounding Hendrix's death are still somewhat of a mystery, but it is believed that he choked on his vomit after taking a large number of barbiturates. He was just 27 years old when he died.
Janis Joplin died of a heroin overdose in 1970. Her body was found in her hotel room in Hollywood, California. Joplin had struggled with addiction for many years, and her death came as a shock to the music world. She was just 27 years old when she died.
The Doors frontman Jim Morrison died in Paris in 1971 from heart failure. Morrison's death was originally ruled a natural death, but many believe that he actually died of an overdose. He was just 27 years old when he died.
The Rolling Stones guitarist Brian Jones died in 1969 from drowning. His body was found at the bottom of his swimming pool in London. Jones had been battling addiction for many years, and his death was widely speculated to be a drug-related accident.
Badfinger singer and guitarist Pete Ham died in 1975 from hanging himself in his home in London. His death was ruled a suicide, and it is believed that he took his own life because of financial problems. He was just 27 years old when he died.
Mexican singer Valentin Elizalde was shot and killed after a concert in 2006. It is believed that he was killed because of his music, which often contained political messages. He was just 27 years old when he died.
Amy Winehouse, one of the most talented singers of her generation, died of accidental alcohol poisoning in 2011. Winehouse had battled drug and alcohol addiction for many years before her death, and she had been in and out of rehab numerous times. She was just 27 years old when she died.
While the 27 club is tragic and marked by untimely deaths, these musicians left behind legacies that will be remembered for years to come.